This week’s artist deserving of more attention is … Glaswegian painter Martin Kane. I’m pleased to see that Martin has his own website these days: www.martinkane.net The influence of Martin’s work can be seen in the early chapters of my first novel “Ultrameta“…. a kind of distilled urban melancholy of post-industrial decay. Martin and I share a great admiration for the artists of a lesser-known artistic movement called the Italian Metaphysicists, a kind of precursor of the Surrealists, which began with the early work of Georgio de Chirico and Carlo Carra, and later taken up by the likes of Mario Sironi.
Below is the essay I wrote about his work for an exhibition in Connecticut in 2007. I have added URLs to all the names of other Metaphysical painters, to make an overview of their work easy:
It is easy for Clydesiders to forget that a most modern disease: the state of alienation of a people from their native culture through urbanisation, actually began here with the Industrial Revolution, which the British Empire then exported to the world. Perhaps this is the essence of the melancholy that finds such beautiful expression in the work of Martin Kane. His post-industrial landscapes, abstracted forms of warehouses and cranes and docks, capture a world in which an alienated diminutive people inhabit the ruins of a civilisation built by Victorian giants. Human meaning, human contact, seems to have been lost in this world, leaving only cryptic questions in an atmosphere of expectation, dejection, menace. To a local, such a world can be identified as Glasgow, but today natives of any Industrialised country will relate to Kane’s take on the despair of economic decay, the menace of the man-made labyrinth of the modern city; where individuals feel like the prey of some unseen higher authority. Kane does not load his brush with these emotions however, but strives to wipe away all traces of technique, to purify and simplify, to strip everything back to the essence of an empty scene. His pictures sometimes seem like desolate stages where something unspecified may be about to happen. But perhaps the event they actually wait for is the arrival of the viewer, and their emotional reaction. In this, Kane connects back to the paintings of Grosz, Schlemmer, de Chirico, Morandi, and Sironi: European artists of the 1920s who catalogued the shock of urban alienation in “metaphysical” landscapes. And like Morandi, Kane’s recent work almost approaches “still life”: abstraction of his urban forms into something like collections of symbols and totems. Significantly, warmer colours now enter his palette. He seems to hint that the viewer must make sense of what is left behind: that even if only in geometry, shadow, and colour, the redeeming harmony of the universe can still be rediscovered.